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February 22, 1971

Infant Death Rates

Author Affiliations

AMA Center for Health Services Research and Development Chicago

JAMA. 1971;215(8):1318-1320. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03180210062016

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Many statements are made regarding the importance and appropriateness of infant death rates as measures of the health status of the US population, and of the efficacy of the US health system. Often, comparisons are made with other countries to provide an international context for evaluation; usually the comparison is with Sweden, which has the lowest infant death rate as recorded in most statistical sources.

Often, discussion of this subject is emotional and based on inadequate data or erroneous conclusions. A number of points can be made about the infant mortality controversy.

The infant death rate is not the best, or even a good indicator of the health status of a nation or the efficacy of a nation's health delivery system. Infant mortality is, for the most part, a social rather than a medical problem. Such factors as poverty, malnutrition, poor housing, low education levels, and racial or ethnic differences